Acne is often associated with oily skin. So you may be surprised to know that a combination of acne and dry skin is common too.
Caused by the clogging of pores, acne can occur in people with dry skin due to varied reasons. Also, the treatments typically prescribed for acne will not always have the desired results in dry skin conditions.
So, read on to understand the possible causes and treatments of acne on dry skin, along with tips to prevent it.
Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks
“Dry skin acne, inspite of sounding paradoxical, is a commonly occurring problem. Acne can trouble all kinds of skin at all ages. There are three steps to treating acne. These are exfoliation, moisturization and antimicrobial treatments.”
-Dr. Zeel Gandhi (Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine & Surgery), Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix
Can Dry Skin Cause Acne?
Acne in dry skin, although rare, is not uncommon. Tiny glands near the surface of your skin produce sebum, the excess of which can block your hair follicles. This in turn can trigger the development of whiteheads, blackheads, and other forms of acne.
Also, the lack of moisture in the skin can make it dry and scaly. The glands beneath your skin then produce excess sebum to combat this dryness. This, along with dead skin, can trigger acne.
Your dry and acne-prone skin may have lower levels of ceramides (lipids present in the epidermis) . These play a vital role in forming the skin's protective barrier. When your skin barrier is not powerful enough to retain moisture and stop microbes like bacteria, fungus, etc., you may experience dry skin and acne.
As per Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix, “Dry skin acne, inspite of sounding paradoxical, is a commonly occurring problem. Acne can trouble all kinds of skin at all ages. There are three steps to treating acne. These are exfoliation, moisturization and antimicrobial treatments.”
“If not exfoliated correctly, dry skin can build up and clog pores. Use the right moisturizer for your skin. Resort to double cleansing by using oil and a mild exfoliating face cleanser. Oil helps dissolve the debris and dead skin,” she adds.
What Causes Dry Skin And Acne?
Excess oil production by hair follicles usually causes irritated and plugged follicles. This in turn causes bacterial infections, which are one of the main reasons for acne . So, while oily skin is considered the main culprit, dry skin can also trigger breakouts in several ways. These are:
1. Genetic factors or growing age can cause dry skin . Besides these, harsh weather conditions, skin conditions like eczema, keratosis pilaris, psoriasis, insufficient water consumption, etc., can also make your skin dry.
Also, prolonged use of anti-acne products, oil-free face washes, medication, or certain cosmetics can make your skin dry .
As your skin becomes dry, your body produces more oil to balance that. This excess oil can clog your pores, leading to acne.
2. Extreme dryness can lead to cracks or flaky and peeling skin. Such skin becomes more vulnerable to infection from microorganisms due to a weak skin barrier. This, in turn, leads to increased breakouts.
3. Overuse of moisturizers to keep your skin hydrated can also clog your pores, leading to acne.
Dr. Zeel says, “Use of heavy moisturizers or not moisturizing at all are the most common causes of acne for dry skin. Find a moisturizer that is just right for your skin type. A healthy cleansing routine and good moisturizer naturally balance the microbial growth on skin and prevent acne.”
4. Many people tend to use thick moisturizers during winter and dry seasons. But some hydrating components of these can be too rich for acne-prone skin. Also, certain ingredients may not be suitable for your skin type, thus clogging your pores .
Dry and acne-prone skin can be challenging to treat. While there are many over-the-counter skin care products and popular home remedies for oily skin, you need to choose carefully. A wrong home remedy, medication or therapy can worsen your skin condition by making it overtly dry .
How To Treat Acne On Dry Skin?
1. Keep your face clean:
Wash your face twice with a mild cleanser that cleans your face without drying it. However, avoid over-cleansing and use hot water for cleansing. These can dry your skin.
Washing your face with an abrasive product can further irritate the skin. Avoid excessive scrubbing or using a harsh scrubber, as it can make your acne worse.
Avoid picking or touching the skin. Don't forget to apply a suitable moisturizer  to keep your skin hydrated.
2. Use natural skin care products:
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using gentle skin care products that are alcohol-free. Products like astringents, toners and exfoliants can irritate your skin and worsen acne.
You can apply tea tree or jojoba oil to reduce acne. Aloe vera and honey are two other beneficial ingredients to reduce acne without further drying your skin.
Some herbs and Ayurvedic medications can do wonders to cure your acne without further drying your skin. These common ingredients can help reduce your acne:
1. Tulsi (Basil):
Crush some fresh and clean tulsi leaves and apply the paste to your face. Leave it for 15 – 20 minutes and then rinse it off.
2. Amla (Indian Gooseberry):
The application of amla paste on your skin can control excess sebum production, fight acne-causing bacteria, and prevent scarring.
An antibacterial and antifungal ingredient, turmeric works great to prevent breakouts and pimples caused by bacteria. You can use turmeric paste to see the difference.
4. Neem Leaves:
Applying the paste of neem leaves helps in treating pimples. Even washing your face with boiled neem leaves water can give visible results.
It is an effective remedy for pimples. It helps balance tridosha (vata, pitta and kapha), detoxifies the whole body, fights against microbes, and helps in healing acne. To use, take one teaspoon of Triphala powder with hot water on an empty stomach every morning.
6. Manjishtadi Kwath and Mahathikthaka Ghritham:
These are blood purifiers and also help to heal acne.
7. Other remedies:
A few other ingredients that can help treat acne include the application of potato or papaya paste, consumption of white gourd juice, application of aloe vera gel, honey, lemon juice, etc.
Over The Counter Medications
1. Spot Treatment:
For dry skin, spot treatment with topical medicine can be helpful in addressing pimples. You can use a targeted treatment with a potent dose of active ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to reduce the symptoms.
A study was conducted to compare the effectiveness of 2.5%, 5% and 10% benzoyl peroxide gel on acne. Results of the study indicated that a 2.5% concentration can provide a betterreduction in acne lesions as 5% and 10% without any significant redness, peeling or irritation.
For both acne and dry skin, formulas with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and soothing niacinamide are more suitable to reduce acne symptoms and soothe dry skin.
Unlike topical treatments, oral medications can help to treat dry skin with acne without drying the skin further. Spironolactone is an oral medication considered effective in minimizing hormone-induced acne in female patients .
Antibiotice like doxycycline or minocycline are effective in treating active bacterial acne. These antibiotics can also reduce inflammation and pain of your facial zit.
- Retinol is a known component used to combat acne. It can unclog pores by sloughing away dead skin cells. It also helps to keep the pores clear .
Tips To Get Rid Of Dry Skin Acne
1. Follow A Regular Skincare Routine
Use skin care products that are gentle on your skin. Stick to a skincare regime that suits your skin type. Avoid introducing too many new products, as that can cause more harm than good.
2. Cleanse Twice a Day
Wash your face twice a day with a gentle face cleanser. Use a specially formulated face wash meant for dry and acne-prone skin. You can also choose a milky-textured cleanser that won’t strip the skin of its natural oils.
3. Choose Products Suitable For Your Skin
Choose skincare or makeup products containing ingredients suitable for your skin type. Make sure they don't irritate the skin or dry it further. Also, look for products that are non-comedogenic. Don’t forget to wash off all your makeup before bed. Remember to use unscented skin products as they are usually mild and gentle on the skin.
4. Remember To Moisturize Your Skin
People with acne-prone skin are afraid of moisturizing their skin. But all skin types, especially dry skin, need moisture. So, opt for a moisturizing gel that will help to rehydrate your skin, reduce breakouts and minimize post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
5. Sunscreens Are A Must
Use a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 to protect your skin from ultraviolet rays. It will help to prevent dryness and reduce skin inflammation and dark spots that remain after the acne is gone.
1. Avoid makeup or other skin products containing ingredients that can irritate your skin.
2. Don’t change your acne treatments too often. Give it enough time to start working and show effects.
3. Don’t touch or pick your acne. It can make your acne worse.
4. Avoid tanning beds and minimize the time of exposure to the sun.
5. Don’t wash your face too much. That might dry the skin out and cause further irritation.
When To See A Dermatologist About Dry Skin And Acne?
If home remedies and over-the-counter medications do not cure your acne or improve your dry skin condition within 4 to 8 weeks, you should consult a dermatologist. Based on the severity of your condition, he might suggest treatment options like Laser, Chemical Peel, Microdermabrasion, Dermaplaning, etc., when necessary.
Additionally, the dermatologist will also check whether skin conditions like dermatitis, psoriasis, etc. are the reason behind your dry skin and acne, and suggest suitable treatments.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dry Skin And Acne
1. How To Keep Acne-Prone Skin Hydrated?
- Limit your face cleansing to 1 or 2 times a day using mild face wash or cleansing milk.
- Use moisturizing gel regularly.
- Turn on a humidifier during the winter.
- Drink extra water throughout the day.
- Apply aloe vera and honey.
2.How To Know If You Really Have Both Dry Skin And Acne?
Acne appears as pinkish or reddish bumps on your skin. These eruptions are easily noticeable. But to identify dry skin, you need to closely observe the following common symptoms:
- Dehydrated, rough and dull skin
- Skin losing its natural elasticity
- More visible lines
- Flakes and rough texture
- Cracks in the skin
- Frequent skin infections
- Irritated skin with red patches
The Last Word
- People with dry skin can have acne. Excess use of acne treatment products can make your skin dry as well.
- A combination of dry skin and acne needs special attention as most anti-acne products are for oily skin.
- You can treat your acne and dry skin using some medications, home remedies and Ayurvedic remedies.
- Following a good skincare routine is an effective way to prevent acne and dry skin. For instance, avoid skincare or makeup products that irritate the skin, such as retinol, which can further dry out your skin.
- Dry skin and acne often clear up with good skin care. But if your acne persists, you must consult a dermatologist to get appropriate medical help for your skin.
1. Ceramides and Skin Function, Published on 21 Aug 2012
2. Impaired water barrier function in acne vulgaris, Published on 1995,
3. Acne: An understanding of the disease and its impact on life, Published on April – June 2012,
4. Skin Aging and Dry Skin, Published on 22 Jul 2014,
5. What’s Your Skin Type?, published on 13 Oct 2021,
6. Moisturizers for Acne, published in May 20014,
7. Moisturizers and Ceramide-containing Moisturizers May Offer Concomitant Therapy with Benefits, Published in Mar 2014,
8. Moisturizer: Why You May Need It If You Have Acne,
9. Dry Skin: Signs And Symptoms,
10. Oral Spironolactone for Acne Vulgaris in Adult Females: A Hybrid Systematic Review, Published on 2 Feb 2017,
11. Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for Acne, Published on 5 Jun 2017,p>https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13555-017-0185-2
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